The University of the Fraser Valley is struggling to meet students' needs and growing enrolment in the face of a continued provincial funding freeze in the coming year.
Eric Davis, UFV provost and vice-president academic, said for the last couple of years UFV as a whole, and especially the Abbotsford campus, is feeling the pinch of too many students and not enough money.
"Enrolment will equal or surpass where we were last year," said Davis, noting 16,000 students attended the university last year.
"That's a challenge for us because we are servicing more students than we are funded for and we are running out of space."
UFV has been running at 105 per cent capacity the last couple of years, and the Abbotsford campus is especially stressed at 130 per cent capacity, said Davis.
"We're overflowing in other words," he said.
"It means not every student can get the classes they want and we have long wait lists."
The university currently has 3,000 students on wait lists for courses, and that's still with a drop of more than 200 students from last year, said Davis.
As such, students often have to wait for classes or select ones that might not be their first choice.
UFV is trying to address the crunch by setting up more sections of a class when possible and tinkering with the registration process, but it isn't resorting to increasing class sizes, said Davis.
The provincial government used to provide extra funding as the number of students at an institution grew but stopped the practice a couple of years ago, said Davis.
"Underlying it all is the fiscal crunch," he said.
"But they also felt there was capacity in the [post-secondary] system as a whole."
While institutions in the Interior and northern B.C. may still have some growing room, that's not the case in the Fraser Valley, one of the fastest growing regions in the province, he said.
Although sympathetic to political pressures faced by the provincial government, Davis said students in Abbotsford and Chilliwack shouldn't have to go to universities farther afield when they have one in their own backyard.
"Other institutions are not making their quotas . . . logically the funding should be shifted from there to here, but politically that's hard to do."
However, more positive challenges are also afoot for the coming year, said Davis.
The university is planning to break ground in the fall for a new spacious student centre at the Abbotsford campus, which will house a wide variety of services and programs.
An added bonus is that with the services moving to the specialized site, more rooms will be freed up for classes.
Two other exciting initiatives include the arrival of the teachers education program at the Abbotsford campus, and the launch of the graphic and digital design diploma program at the Mission campus.
To continue providing quality programs to its students, UFV is becoming as "entrepreneurial" as possible to fill the funding gaps, said Davis.
The province provides 50 per cent of UFV's funding, tuition provides 27 per cent and the university must come up with the rest.
Davis concedes raising funds for the university does divert resources from the primary mandate of educating students.
"I can't give a figure but we devote a significant amount of time and money to the question," he said.
In an ideal but unlikely world, universities would be fully funded, said Davis.
"It would be great to have 100 per cent funding but that's not going to happen, but it would be great if we at least got a bigger share of the pie."